Movie Guide

NEW RELEASES
Alexander (PG-13)

Director: Oliver Stone. With Colin Farrell, Angelina Jolie, Anthony Hopkins, Jared Leto. (172 min.)

Sterritt * The story of Alexander the Great, who wept when he realized there were no more realms for him to conquer. Stone may do the same when he realizes what a dull movie he's directed. It's astounding that the ingenious creator of "JFK" and "Wall Street" could make an epic on war and empire that's so utterly simplistic and unreflective.

Bob, Verushka & the Pursuit of Happiness (Not rated)

Director: Roger Stigliano. With Michael Waite, Yelena Danova, Art Desuyo, Pavel Lynchnikoff. (80 min.)

Recommended: Could you pass a US citizenship test?

Sterritt ** A small-time salesman finds himself on a crime spree with a Russian femme fatale. Tries to be a new "Something Wild"; ends up being tamer than tame.

Christmas With the Kranks (PG)

Director: Joe Roth. With Tim Allen, Jamie Lee Curtis, Dan Aykroyd, Cheech Marin. (99 min.)

Sterritt * Facing their first Christmas without their daughter at home, a middle-aged couple decide not to celebrate the holiday, sending their neighborhood into shock. It's possible the comedy contains some secret allegory about the Protestant Reformation - the main character is named Luther, after all - but its main message is that everyone should believe and behave in exactly the same way. Groupthink wins again!

Guerrilla: The Taking of Patty Hearst (Not rated)

Director: Robert Stone. With Patricia Hearst, Russ Little, Michael Bortin, Timothy Findley. (89 min.)

Sterritt **** Riveting documentary about the 1970s kidnapping of the young California newspaper heiress by the so-called Symbionese Liberation Army, a group of radical activists she was then accused of joining, aiding, and abetting. A must-see account that casts a harshly illuminating light on a key period of recent American history.

Notre Musique (Not rated)

Director: Jean-Luc Godard. With Judith Lerner, Ramos Garcia, Olga Brodsky, Jean-Luc Godard. (79 min.)

Sterritt **** Godard's latest masterpiece takes a symbolic journey starting in hell, represented by modern war; moving to purgatory, set in Sarajevo, where a Jewish journalist hopes to confirm the possibilities of peace and reconciliation; and ending in paradise, a chunk of Swiss countryside with a varied population.

Visually sublime and intellectually dense, this is one of the extremely rare movies that prove cinema can be as complex and profound as the very greatest art works in any form. The title means "Our Music." In English, French, and Spanish, with subtitles

A Very Long Engagement (R)

Director: Jean-Pierre Jeunet. With Audrey Tautou, Tcheky Karyo, Jodie Foster. (133 min.)

Sterritt *** See review.

CURRENTLY IN RELEASE
After the Sunset (R)

Director: Brett Ratner. With Pierce Brosnan, Salma Hayek, Woody Harrelson, Don Cheadle. (97 min.)

Sterritt ** A cop chases a crook who covets a huge, exotic diamond. This indirect rehash of "To Catch a Thief" trades Hitchcockian shrewdness for the slickest kinds of Hollywood glitz, gloss, and vulgarity.

Sex/Nudity: 9 instances of innuendo. Violence: 7 Profanity: 27 expressions, mostly mild. Drugs: 15 instances of drinking, 3 of smoking.

Alfie (R)

Director: Charles Shyer. With Jude Law, Susan Sarandon, Omar Epps, Marisa Tomei. (103 min.)

Sterritt *** Remake of the 1966 comedy-drama that put Michael Caine on the movie-world map with his portrayal of a womanizing scoundrel who eventually realizes he doesn't know "what it's all about," as the title song put it. Law is lively and Shyer keeps the action hopping with help from the movie's original gimmick of having Alfie keep up a running monologue to the audience.

Sex/Nudity: 14 Violence: 1 Profanity: 16 expressions, mostly mild. Drugs: 20 instances, 2 with illegal substances.

Bad Education (Not rated)

Director: Pedro Almodóvar. With Gael García Bernal, Fele Martínez, Lluis Homar, Daniel Giménez Cacho. (105 min.)

Sterritt *** Reading a story by a childhood friend, a movie director relives a complicated past of love and sexual abuse at a Franco-era parochial school. Spain's most important living filmmaker isn't at his very best in this complicated tale, but it raises still-timely questions well worth pondering. In Spanish with subtitles.

Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason (R)

Director: Beeban Kidron. With Renée Zellweger, Colin Firth, Hugh Grant, Gemma Jones. (108 min.)

Sterritt ** The sequel to the 2001 hit "Bridget Jones's Diary" is basically more of the same, with our weight-conscious heroine caught between snooty attorney Firth, cheeky journalist Grant, and her own indecisive nature. The movie catches occasional fire when Bridget suddenly says what's really on her mind. The rest is silliness.

Finding Neverland (PG)

Director: Marc Forster. With Johnny Depp, Kate Winslet, Dustin Hoffman, Julie Christie. (113 min.)

Sterritt *** Depp plays the Scottish playwright who dreamed up "Peter Pan" after befriending some real-life children. The story takes large liberties with Barrie's biography, and parents should know that the movie is surprisingly dark, dealing candidly with the death of a major character. The acting is excellent.

The Grudge (PG-13)

Director: Takashi Shimizu. With Sarah Michelle Gellar, Clea DuVall. (96 min.)

Staff *** When a young Japanese day-care volunteer responsible for nursing an elderly, demented woman fails to show up to work one day, an American exchange student (Gellar) is asked to take her place. The disturbing events that follow in the old woman's home will leave you hanging by a thread. By Gabino Villanueva

Sex/Nudity: 2 instances. Violence: 16 instances. Profanity: 3 mild expressions. Drugs: 3 instances of drinking and smoking.

The Incredibles (PG)

Director: Brad Bird. With voices of Craig T. Nelson, Holly Hunter, Samuel L. Jackson, Sarah Vowell. (115 min.)

Sterritt *** What would happen if the public turned against superheroes, seeing them as menaces whose pursuit of truth and justice wreaks havoc on innocent bystanders? That question energizes this ambitious animation from Disney and Pixar, and the answers, decked out with slam-bang action and witty dialogue, are great fun to discover.

Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 25 Profanity: 1 mild theological expression. Drugs: 2 instances of drinking.

Kinsey (R)

Director: Bill Condon. With Liam Neeson, Laura Linney, John Lithgow, Oliver Platt. (118 min.)

Sterritt *** Fictionalized biography of Alfred Kinsey, a professor who switched his research from insects to human sexuality in the 1940s, opening controversial new doors for scientific inquiry. The movie's style is fairly staid, but it's hard to imagine how Neeson could be better, and the subject is handled with tact.

National Treasure (PG)

Director: Jon Turteltaub. With Nicolas Cage, Diane Kruger, Harvey Keitel, Jon Voight. (131 min.)

Sterritt ** "The Da Vinci Code" meets "Raiders of the Lost Ark" in this slam-bang adventure about two teams, one good and one evil, scrutinizing patriotic artifacts for clues to a hidden Masonic treasure. Too bad the clever bits are swamped by no-brainer gunfights, rescues, and chases galore.

The Polar Express (G)

Director: Robert Zemeckis. With voices of Tom Hanks, Nona Gaye, Eddie Deezen, Peter Scolari. (100 min.)

Sterritt ** On its way to the North Pole, a magical train pauses on Christmas Eve to pick up kids who need more Christmas cheer. The movie is technically impressive, using high-tech "capture" methods that transform live action into animation. The story is too implausible even for a fantasy, though, and its message of "belief" refers entirely to yuletide gifts and decorations, never so much as nodding to the holiday's religious meanings.

Staff *** Charming, fantasically animated, holiday-spirited.

Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: None. Profanity: 1 mild expression. Drugs: None.

Ray (PG-13)

Director: Taylor Hackford. With Jamie Foxx, Kerry Washington, Clifton Powell, Regina King. (152 min.)

Sterritt *** Fictionalized biography of Ray Charles, the late singer, pianist, and songwriter. Foxx is just about perfect, allowing us to identify and empathize with Charles even as we experience his failings, including drug addiction that threatened to sabotage his career before he kicked the habit in the 1960s. Fine acting and magnificent music compensate for a schematic story line.

Sex/Nudity: 7 instances. Violence: 6 instances. Profanity: 76 mild expressions. Drugs: 52 instances, some with illegal substances.

Seed of Chucky (R)

Director: Don Mancini. With Jennifer Tilly, John Waters, Redman, Tony Gardner. (87 min.)

Staff * The serial killer doll is back and the bodies - dismembered, disemboweled, decapitated, and incinerated - start to pile up. Tilly, whose character became doll-bride Tiffany in episode 4, again supplies Tiffany's voice and she also plays herself shooting a movie called "Chucky Goes Psycho." Saying this movie is deliberately bad is no excuse. Set in Hollywood, filmed in Romania. By M. K. Terrell

The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie (PG)

Directors: Sherm Cohen, Stephen Hillenburg, Mark Osborne. With voices of Tom Kenny, Alec Baldwin, Bill Fagerbakke, Jeffrey Tambor. (87 min.)

Sterritt **** Our absorbent hero and his starfish pal leave Bikini Bottom for sinister Shell City on a mission to retrieve King Neptune's stolen crown and save wrongly accused Mr. Krabs in the process. Imagine a Jerry Lewis movie designed by Salvador Dalí and you'll have some idea what this animation is like.

OUT ON DVD
Seinfeld: Season 1 - 3 (Unrated)

Director: Various. With Jerry Seinfeld, Jason Alexander, Julia Louis-Dreyfuss, Michael Richards. (942 min.)

Staff **** It's appropriate that the first DVDs of 'Seinfeld,' a TV comedy concerned with the trivial aspects of daily life, are crammed with encyclopedic trivia such as the origin of Kramer's bird-nest hair and the inspiration for Art Vandelay. The first three seasons, available in two box sets, include the option of watching each episode with production notes (including a "Kramer Entrance Counter"), while interviews with the cast offer fresh insights and hindsights. Wry commentary tracks by creators Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld chronicle how the show evolved from being a situation comedy to a comedy where several situations dovetailed into one glorious farce. Skip the reruns - this is an essential set. By Stephen Humphries

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